Podcast Topic: Assimilation

laptop mac coffee desk work computer

Last week I recorded a Podcast. I’ll post the link and the relevant information when it airs.

The topic was: assimilation (I’m sure you’re surprised) and using church management software as a tool to see how people are connected.

Here’s a brief recap:

1. You have options. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Your first time guest my get a hand-written note card, an email, or a formal ‘business’ letter on church letterhead. They may meet the Pastor on the first visit, during a membership class – or never. The Pastor may hold a guest reception in a dedicated room. Or just simply be visible and available in the lobby – or in the parking lot (yes, I’ve seen that).

2. You need data. If you’re just starting to put a formal plan into place, this could mean a few things. Either talk to other churches of similar size and structure and ask them to share their data or be willing to change your course after a few months. Start with one plan and if you find that your numbers aren’t hitting your goals, be willing to change.

3. You can’t control everything. I love the connect cards that give people the option to join a team. I enter that information into the church management software. From there, I will ask each ministry team leader to contact those people and enter information from their own follow up into the church management software. In that process, there is a piece I cannot control: the actual follow up by the ministry team leader. Once it’s been assigned to a ministry leader, they own their ‘how.’ Some ministry leaders may prefer email, some text, some a personal phone call. That’s up to them. The only time they’ll hear from me is if their process isn’t documented in profile notes each week.

4. You’re setting up an expectation. If your first time guests meet the Lead Pastor and get an email from the Pastor’s email address, they will assume they always have access to the Lead Pastor. Most Lead Pastors that I know want to know their people and don’t mind this. However, as the church grows, you could have thousands of people assuming they have immediate access to the Lead Pastor. As the church grows, check-in with your Lead Pastor and see if current processes are causing stress on him or his family. If they are causing stress, it’s time for a change.

5. Be flexible. It’s about people. You may have a solid plan that includes a first time guest email. And then on day a person walks in who is ‘off the grid.’ No email. No smartphone. No social media. Make a note in that person’s profile so that you know. Keep a log somewhere. Instead of an email, this person gets a hand-written note card.

What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go and search for the stray? – Matthew 18:12

At the end of the day, remember this is not your call. Set up a time to review current processes with your Lead Pastor and make sure you present him with options and data so that he can make an informed decision. Then communicate and execute his decisions. Don’t second-guess his decisions, even if you disagree. I heard a speaker once say, “it’s not true submission until there’s a disagreement.”

Remember our instruction in Hebrews 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

 

Bonus Content:

From Sunday to Monday. It’s Sunday at noon at most of the key volunteers have gone home.

Now it’s up to church staff on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning to filter through connect cards and notes.

If you’re a Sunday volunteer, check in with your church staff to see if any of the Sunday morning procedures are causing any stress or confusion on Monday morning.

(For myself and my counterparts at other churches, it is very common to work late nights, weekends, and often unpaid ‘overtime’ hours. It is common to miss corporate worship in order to serve. Rarely, do we complain about this, as we understand our roles in ministry.)

If you’re on church staff and you realize that some Sunday procedures could be re-structured to reduce stress or confusion on Monday morning, communicate that to your volunteers. Be as transparent as possible with office procedures and let them know that their small changes on Sundays can help lead to a more organized and productive office during the week.

I’ll be recording some additional podcasts, as well as some content in April.

I’ll post links as soon as they’re available.

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Lead With The Authority You’ve Been Given

smartphone mobile hand coffee

While I write this from the perspective of a database administrator, this could apply to any communications role.

I walk into our Lead Pastor’s office.

“Question. In CCB…”

Before I can finish, his facial expression is changing…

He doesn’t care.

He understands the need for the database.

He may even want to understand the database.

But, he doesn’t love the database.

In fact, he understands enough, just enough, to know he doesn’t have time to learn more.

But me? I love the database. Maybe a little too much.

Not only do I understand it, I understand it’s inner workings. I joke in the office, “if this gig doesn’t work out, I’ll go into Church Management Software Forensics.”

“Is that a thing?” my co-worker asks.

“I could make it a thing.”

CCB has an online platform for other software administrators. They call it The Village.

My co-worker calls me The Mayor.

Back to our Lead Pastor.

He listens to my rambling question, and my proposed solution. I’m pretty sure he only pretended to listen.

Then he says, “yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

Every. Single. Time.

I’m pretty sure I could start any conversation with “Hey in CCB…” and it would end with “yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

“Hey in CCB, I want to buy a new car and book a vacation to a tropical island.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead. I trust you.”

He doesn’t care. He doesn’t have time.

But I don’t want him to care, nor do I want him to have time. I don’t.

Because, in reality, he does care.

And that’s why he hired me.

He knows I understand the structure of the church. He knows our family fully supports the vision and mission of the church. And most of all, he knows that on a scale of 1-10, my knowledge of CCB is a 12.

He also knows, a Pastor’s primary role is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

I want him to make time for that. I want him to care about that.

I also want him to care about his wife, his children, his neighbors.

There are church members with real hurts and real needs. I want him to care about those. But I don’t want him to care about a database.

I often tell our Pastor, “go preach, pray, and write a book.”

He’s the leader.

And, every single Sunday he’s got to bring a message to a wide audience. Young, old, non-believers, new-believers, and strong-believers. Any given Sunday.

Why would I ever – ever – expect or even want him to be thinking about the database?

I was faced with a problem recently and I knew the answer. In my gut, I knew what to do. Yet, I sent a support ticket into the software company. Their solution was my solution. I’d been right.

Our Pastor has given me (his words), “a pretty big sandbox to play in” when it comes to the software. That just means he’s given me some authority and has promised to back up any decisions I make.

God has gifted each of us differently. For me, that means discernment, leadership and administration. Our Pastor is a Pastor. I am not.

But I hesitate before making the final decision…

And each time I walk into his office with a database question, the facial expression changes.

It’s fine. I trust you.

Today, church communicators – whether your primary role is with the database, social media, the web site, first impressions, or any other communication role – lead with the authority you’ve been given and support others as they do the same.

 

Class Attendance

classroom lecture college class student

Imagine that you’re trying to see how many adults you have present in small groups each week.

Imagine that you’re trying to see how many children you had on campus one Sunday and in which rooms.

Now imagine that data is stored in multiple places, accessible by different people.

Group leader, do you have your attendance?

Oh yes, I keep a detailed spreadsheet on my computer at home.

No, I never take attendance, but I remember who was there.

Yes here it is (scrawled on a napkin, complete with coffee stains, pulled from the bottom of a purse).

Now imagine that you can log onto your church management software and get that information within a few minutes. Maybe seconds.

And yet, I hear from churches every day that one of their top issues is: we don’t know where people are. I talk to other database administrators who say that they know a total number of ‘butts in seats’ on Sunday, but have no real attendance on individual people. They don’t know who is connected – or where.

As a process person, who is constantly reminded that we need to think about “people over process,” I want to share with you why attendance is much more than “part of the process.”

I’ll make a bold statement: I don’t believe that anyone either accepted or denied Jesus based on whether the church had accurate attendance records.

That’s a bold statement coming from a process person and one that hurts me to admit. Even with that being said, I absolutely believe that taking attendance is important.

I’m not going to over-spiritualize this. This is not a theological discussion. I leave those to people who are much more qualified.

But there are some basic reasons why attendance – accuracy and accessibility – is important.

We’re called to be good stewards of the resources God has given us.

That means physical resources. Church leaders need to know who is present, and which rooms. If one class is outgrowing their room and another class consistently has low attendance, it might be time to move some people.

It also means financial resources. A particular class may need more curriculum materials. Knowing actual attendance figures will help leaders to know how much that class needs.

Often, these decisions need to be made quickly. Having all attendance figures quickly accessible in one place, helps save time when making important decisions regarding resources.

Church leaders care about people.

I hope – that like our family – you’re blessed with a Pastor who gives a fantastic message each week. There is more to church than the Sunday sermon. There’s these things: fellowship, service, spiritual growth.

Those things happen best in the context of small groups or ministry teams.

Most Pastors I talk to do care about these things. Yet, taking individual attendance on a Sunday church service can be a daunting – or impossible – task as a church grows.

Knowing that people are connected in a small group, is important to most Pastors.

The next time your small group leader takes attendance, remember this is a not the church trying to be “big brother.”

If you’re a small group leader, the next time you’re asked to submit attendance through the church management software, this is not the powers that be trying to make your life more difficult.

Think of the software as a central communications tool. It’s a tool that will empower church leaders to make important decisions based on accurate information, accessible to them when they need it, and will help them better care for everyone in the church.

New

ocean close up sea water dawn sun

Have you ever seen dawn? I saw it this summer. My husband and I were on a cruise ship that was due to dock early one morning. We woke up and watched a new day break from our balcony. We were pulling into port just as the city was waking up.

It was amazing to see the start of something new.

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling like I needed a day off. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My throat hurt. My eyes hurt. My nose needed running shoes.

But I really wanted to go into the office. There was work to do and I love what I get to do.

I took some vitamin C and ibuprofen, drank hot tea, used some eye drops and got out the door.

The morning didn’t go as planned.

I created and posted the worst social media post ever.

I cancelled a lunch meeting because I knew I just couldn’t get through it.

And I discovered a potential problem in our database that had me comparing the database to a life-threatening illness.

Knowing my love for the database, the problem was probably not with the database, but with my attitude yesterday morning.

And then I decided tacos and guacamole were the answer to all of life’s problems (nevermind the fact that there are stacks of Bibles in my office telling me that Jesus is the answer) so I convinced my co-workers to put me in the back of a car and take me out.

As we were driving back from lunch, I received a text.

My boss firing me for the aforementioned social media post.

It was from a friend I hadn’t talked to in months.

She wrote: “Praying for you. Isaiah 43:18-19.”

I logged onto my Bible app and looked it up.

“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

How did she know I needed that?

She didn’t.

God did.

And God made everything new (although I’m still convinced tacos and guacamole played a small part).

My boss did not fire me for the ‘worst social media post of the year.’

He actually invited me to be a part of a leadership meeting.

I came up with a step-by-step action plan for fixing the potential problem with the database.

By the end of the day, I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave. I joked to our Executive Pastor that I would bring a cot and live there. He unjokingly told me, ‘no.’

Problems will come up in our days. The database won’t work in a way we expected. Technology may fail. We may just be having one of those days.

Be grateful we serve a God who promises to never fail us.

Yesterday I was grateful for grace and forgiveness.

I was reminded yesterday that Godnot tacos and guacamole – does make all things new.

 

 

Past or Future

data charts graphs

This week I wondered out loud: at what point are we willing to sacrifice past data in order to get a database healthy and moving forward?

Our church isn’t there. We’re not at that point.

But I know other database administrators who are at that point or have gotten to that point in the past. I also know that there will be database administrators who get to that point in the future. I may be one of them one day.

So I’ve put together a preparedness plan. I hope you never need this. I hope I never need this.

Here are five things to check before restructuring your database:

1. Do you need a new database? Sometimes we don’t know how to to use our current database and ‘no one wants to learn.’ If “everyone hates it,” is it just time to go with a new one? There is no single database that will meet the needs of every church. Determine your church’s needs, then use a database that will meet those needs now and as the church grows.

2. What time of year is it? I had a Pastor once set an Easter deadline for getting the database healthy. If you’re using your database for financial entry, it might ease the minds of your congregation to make major changes at the end/beginning of a calendar year (for tax accounting reasons).

3. Are there any other organizational changes happening? Anytime your church leadership introduces major church-wide changes, you will have a better chance of your congregation ‘buying into’ a change in the database.

4. DO NOT DO IT ALONE. This is not a uni-lateral decision. You may be at a point where people are saying they hate the database and don’t care what you do. If your church has more than three people, someone does care. Find that person or those people and think through the changes you’re about to make. Remember that each piece of the database has the potential to effect another piece. Changing a group type or department may have an effect on the attendance groupings. Changing the attendance groupings will have an effect on check-in. Talk to the people who are most likely to be impacted.

5. Export and save. Even if you think you have ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ data, you still have data. Do some exports and back-ups before deleting. You may need it one day.

Of course, before doing any of this you should pray. Ask God for direction in all your decisions.

I’d also suggest being as open as you can with your congregation. If you’ve been a ‘cheerleader’ for the software and now (suddenly) they see you doing a major restructuring or even moving to another software, they will question you, your commitment, and your decisions. Trust is earned. Be honest and open about the ‘why.’

Get To

laptop desk pen notebook coffee

I’ve heard the term, “it’s not just another Sunday.” If you serve in guest services, you know what I’m talking about. It’s somebody’s first Sunday. It’s somebody’s first time walking into the doors of the church. Your church.
 
We don’t have to go to church on Sunday. We get to go to church on Sunday. Get to.
 
If you get the insanely awesome privilege of working at the church during the week, that statement can apply to any day. It’s not just another Monday. It’s not just another Tuesday. It’s not just another Wednesday.
The first visit extends beyond the “goodbye.” It extends into the week. It extends into those Monday morning meetings. It extends into the follow up with guests. It extends into updating the database profile. A person moves from ‘visitor’ or ‘guest’ to ‘member.’ The ‘baptism date’ now has data where once there was a blank field. And you get to see that.
You’ve got field-level tickets.
 
Tim Keller wrote: our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.
 
Today we get to serve people.
Get to.

What Is This?

skin close up

Have you ever played one of those “what is this close up” games? You know, you think it’s a sunflower and it turns out to be a bumblebee?

I’ve had that same experience with church management software. This week, I was examining CCB Process Queues. I love them. When used appropriately, they can streamline a lot of processes and centralize some communication.

So I looked closely at each queue and each process. And they each looked great.

And then I stepped back and took the 30,000-foot view (by the way, I’ve been made aware that I just used one of the most annoying business phrases).

And I saw a few things: they weren’t working the way I thought they were and the people receiving the alerts weren’t seeing the same things I was seeing.

It’s not a secret that CCB ranks pretty high up on my list of top Church Management Software programs. I also realize that most [normal] people don’t quite love this as much as I do.

It’s my goal to help people understand the why and the what before introducing the how.

So, I called my doctor and asked for prescription anti-anxiety medication, considered moving to a tropical island, offered to suspend the process queues for awhile and try [revert back to] something different [and familiar].

I think I saw the person on the other side of the desk let out a sigh of relief.

I also signed away my weekend, but who are we kidding? This is CCB. When people [at work] ask what I do for fun I tell them that this is what I do for fun. Sometimes I forget I’m working. When I do remember that I’m working, I’m grateful I get paid to do this.

I’m not killing off process queues. I still love them. I still understand their value. There’s definitely a goal to begin using them again – soon.

In the close up view, I saw my computer and my processes.

Taking a step back, I saw the people.

Sometimes it’s in the best interest of the people to let go of a process in order to make progress.

Everything Communicates

communications devices

If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll learn that while I love church management software, I know it’s just a tool in the overall communications of the church. I also use it as a primary tool for tracking guest services and assimilation. I think the right software can – and should – be the center of church communications.

You’ll also learn that I believe everything we do communicates. Everything communicates something in some way.

Which led me this week to an often overlooked setting by many churches when it comes to their church management software: custom wording in your financial settings.

What wording is going on your end-of-year giving statements? Is it ‘stock wording’ that came with the software? Is there anything at all? Does it reflect the culture of your church?

If you don’t know where this setting is, check under the financial settings of your software and make it  yours.

Everything communicates!

Open For Business

Mac desk office computer

Who is working this week?

I am.

I’m doing a lot of planning and groundwork so that I can hit the ground running in 2018!

This is a good week to review all of your communications assets – from the outward facing web site and social media accounts to your office productivity assets.

This week I know of one church that saved almost $90/month by moving to GSuite for non-profits.

If you’re using a Church Management Software, this is a good week to run some audit reports.

  • See if you need to merge any data profiles or make anyone inactive.
  • Check all of your profile fields for missing information.
  • If you’re using “membership type” information, see if any of those need updated.
  • Reach out to people you haven’t seen in awhile.

Enter all of the connect card information from your Christmas services. If your connect cards have any ‘response’ areas (check boxes; ‘write-in’ information), follow up with people this week. This time of year, people may be looking to (re)connect with church.

It’s also a good time to set some goals for the coming year. This year, I’ll be more focused on questions like:

  • Is this sustainable?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Can it be duplicated as we invest in new leaders and church plants?
  • Does it help people find and follow Jesus?

I am excited about what God has done in 2017.

I am even more excited about what I believe God is going to do in 2018!